you dreading the panhandling bears at Yellowstone and
three-hour waits at Disneyland? Consider these terrific family options.)
for the family vacation! All across America dads are girding up for
interminable lines in Orlando, migraine-inducing car trips, or offbeat
remote museums that may or may not be air-conditioned. Not what you
had in mind? You're in luck. More and more traditional resorts are
targeting families, with prices and activities to please both parents
While almost all resorts allow children, this alone does not make
them family friendly. Destinations that rely on romantic getaways
or cater to business groups are not the best choices. True family
resorts offer a wide range of facilities and activities that will
interest children. The very best have kids' camps or other scheduled
"There's a difference between children's facilities and children's
programs," stresses Kathy Sudeikis, member of the board of directors
of the American Society of Travel Agents. "Facilities can mean
a broken swing. Programs are scheduled, with things like hula lessons
or nature activities. Many parents don't want to put their kids in
a program, but the kids love it."
Most resorts with children's camps offer half or full day programs,
but the better ones give parents more flexibility. The best have numerous
age group divisions, within which activities are better suited for
the enjoyment of infants, pre-teens or teens.
One of the most comprehensive programs in the travel industry is Camp
Hyatt, offered at a dozen resorts operated by Chicago based Hyatt
Hotels Corp. Catering to children 3-12, each participating resort
has a slightly different program, but the theme stresses local flora,
fauna, culture and ecology. Camp Hyatt also features activities in
which parents can participate with their children, such as barbecues,
sports, and nature tours. By dividing the day into morning, lunch,
afternoon and evening sessions, you can customize Camp Hyatt to your
schedule and pay only for what you use. This allows your children
to enjoy themselves while you play golf today, but tomorrow you can
spend the day together touring, yet still enjoy a romantic dinner.
Average prices range from $18 for the three hour morning session to
$68 for the full day, including lunch and dinner (800-233-1234 or
For families that want to golf together, most Hyatt resorts also offer
Kids Play Free, which can save a bundle on greens fees. "Our
guests have begun bringing their children year round. It's a real
trend," said Doug Sears, general manager of the Hyatt Regency
Grand Cayman. "What's great about this location is the excursions
available to Camp Hyatt participants: there's the turtle farm, sand
castle building, and very shallow, safe beaches for snorkeling. If
parents want a romantic dinner alone, we offer nightly crafts and
movies for kids. If you compare it to a baby sitter, it's a great
The resort charges $40 for a full day with lunch, and an additional
$10 for the evening session. Another property, the Hyatt Gainey Ranch
in Scottsdale, focuses on desert tours, Native American crafts, and
Many other resorts feature similar programs. Enchantment in Sedona,
Arizona, has Camp Coyote, with sports, nature activities, and
arts & crafts. The full day program with lunch costs $50 (800-826-4180).
One of the most in-depth programs in the country is at the Sundance
resort in Sundance, Utah, which has one, three and six day kids' camps.
Sundance takes advantage of its natural mountain setting as well as
the visitingartists from around the world which the resort hosts.
A typical family package costs around $1000, including three nights
accommodations, breakfast for four, and three-day kids camps for two
Besides camps, many destinations offer an array of non-scheduled activities,
and accommodations suitable for families. "For lodging,"
Sudeikis suggests, "plan with a family in mind. Consider condo
rentals with kitchens and refrigerators. Many resorts offer these
in addition to regular hotel rooms." For value, experts recommend
going slightly off-season. In summer, this means destinations like
the Caribbean, Hawaii, Utah and Arizona. Many hotels, especially in
resort areas, offerfree kids meals, which can be a big savings.
The Mauna Kea in Hawaii offers two rooms for the price of one
from May-December, perfect for larger families. The hotel has scheduled
children's activities daily, focusing on local culture, including
Hawaiian arts & crafts classes. The weekly Paniolo night, a barbecue
celebrating Hawaiian cowboy tradition with entertainment and roping
displays, is a big hit with families. (800-882-6060, or try the website:
The Sandestin Resort in Destin, FL, recently shifted its marketing
focus to families. Located on the coast of the Florida panhandle,
near the Alabama border, the town of Destin has long been a southern
Mecca for beach lovers, as its talcum-white beaches are among the
world's best. With over 700 one, two and three bedroom condos, as
well as a Hilton Hotel, the resort has a wide range of family lodging
options. All guests get complimentary use of bicycles to explore the
community and free tennis court time. The children's program, called
KidZone, is extensive, with supervised half-day programs for children
aged 4-6, and half and full-day programs for children 7-12. These
include outdoor activities, games, and arts and crafts. Six nights
a week, a "Children's Evening Out" program for ages 4-12
features a pizza party, games and a movie. (800-622-1922, www.sandestin.com)
La Quinta, near Palm Springs, CA offers "dive-in movies,"
each Saturday night, where kids float on rafts in the pool while watching
a movie. This helps beat the summer heat in the desert, as do the
dozens of semi-private swimming pools throughout La Quinta's extensive
grounds. The resort's elaborate children's program, Camp La Quinta
operates every day of the year, with full and half-day programs featuring
daily themes, such as desert discovery day, which includes a nature
walk, sand art, and special activities like a fossil dig where children
learn about rchaeology (800-598-3828).
For all in one shopping, it's hard to beat the Greenbrier,
in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginian. This huge resort offers
6500 acres chock full of activities like a falconry center, off-road
driving school, fishing, hiking trails, a bowling center, croquet,
horseshoes, shuffleboard and indoor and outdoor pools. There are three
different children's programs spanning ages 3-12, and nightly movies
in the resort's own theater. A summer special includes free room and
board for all children under 12, and besides the hotel's 550 rooms,
there are 71 guesthouses and cottages of various sizes. (800-624-6070,
or try the website at: www.greenbrier.com)
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